|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Feb 28, 2017 03:56 AM EST|
(Photo : SOCOM) Three versions of TALOS.
TALOS or the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit designed to protect and heal U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) by the next decade won't look anything the cool Iron Man-type armor people have come to expect, but it will do the job nonetheless.
An announcement made in 2014 by U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven, former Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), said a prototype TALOS armored suit will be delivered by August 2018.
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TALOS is a robotic exoskeleton SOCOM is building with the help of military contractors, universities and the tech industry.
The latest word as of this week is that a prototype TALOS is about "a year and a half" from testing, according to James Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at SOCOM.
"We are on our fifth prototype," said Geurts. "Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent."
A year from now is March 2017 and a year-and-a-half equates to September, which is pretty much in line with McRaven's estimate made in 2014.
A champion of the armored combat suit, McRaven first publicly revealed TALOS in May 2013. His support for TALOS was taken up by his SOCOM successor, U.S. Army General Joseph Votel. Gen. Votel has since been promoted to Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). He was replaced as SOCOM commander by U.S. Army Gen. Raymond Thomas.
In 2013, SOCOM specified that TALOS must be bulletproof and give the soldier superhuman strength. It must also be weaponized and have the ability to monitor the soldier's vital signs.
The TALOS armor will be based on a revolutionary form of protection called "liquid armor." U.S. researchers are using nanotechnology to strengthen kevlar armor with a "magnetorheological fluid" (or MR fluid) that changes into a solid in milliseconds after being struck by a bullet.
The design of the suit could also include an attachable frame that serves as the suit's exoskeleton. The U.S. Army said the exoskeleton promises to give the U.S. soldier superhuman strength. These powered limbs will amplify any motion made by a soldier and boost his speed and overall mobility.
In a TALOS project update in 2015, Gen. Votel said that if all goes well with the project, SOCOM will have "the first of its kind, fully-integrated, independently-powered prototype by the end of August 2018."
"Advanced armor, cutting-edge power sources and integrated display systems are just a few of the results this project has already yielded," said Gen. Votel.
"This past year, SOCOM collaborated with industry to develop the military's first-ever, untethered, loadbearing, powered exoskeleton to augment human performance."
The latest word, however, is the exoskeleton might be a no-go since powering it up is proving a huge problem.
"So in TALOS, don't just think exoskeleton and armor. Think of the whole equation," said Geurts.
"Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying. But it's also a big part of whatever information you have; what is your situational awareness; how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now."
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